'Why your press release quotes are rubbish - and you can quote me on this' - The PR Doctor

This content is produced by a member of The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

The Drum Network’s consultant journalist Michael Feeley explains why most corporate news releases fall into the trap of using executive quotes that say nothing at all…

Michael Feeley
Michael Feeley is The Drum Network's consultant journalist.

Having worked as a journalist, PR and corporate comms consultant for more than 20 years, I’ve read my fair share of press releases and, more than anything, there’s one very common practice that really, really bugs me.

In my work with The Drum Network, the majority of releases I receive are from member agencies that have just signed a new client and are keen to tell the world of their most recent success, so let’s use that type of story as our example for discussion here.

In the vast majority of cases, having established the facts of the new client win and outlined the brief involved, the press release will then go on to provide quotes from executives of both the agency and the client. This is often where things start to go wrong.

No doubt at the agency’s encouragement, the client often provides a quote that goes something like this: “Of all the agencies we invited to pitch, this agency was by far the most experienced in this sector and they really blew us away with their creative ideas and enthusiasm. The agency team is also super-smiley, they smell terrific and make a tremendous cup of tea, yadda, yadda, yadda…”

You get the idea. Likewise, the agency quote invariably runs along these lines: “We’re delighted, excited, ecstatic even, to bring a client of this caliber on board, a major player in their industry and all-round big deal. We clicked right away with the client and we’re buzzing with ideas, so we can’t wait to started!”

If you’re cringing in recognition at any of the above, please don’t worry – I’m not judging you. I’m sure I wrote a few of those kinds of quotes myself, back in my days as a PR manager. (Generally, it should be pointed out, this would happen when the executive being quoted would tell me: “Just make something up for my quote.”)

For me, using quotes in this sort of lazy, generic way is a major missed opportunity to get more from your press releases and the coverage they generate.

Rather than waste the client’s quote on blowing smoke up the agency’s behind, what would be more effective would be to have the client explain why they are appointing an agency in the first place. What are the challenges in their market that they are trying to tackle with this appointment?

Forget about strong-arming your new client for an explicit endorsement of your agency in their quote. They’ve already appointed you – in the minds of most readers that will be endorsement enough. By using the client to explain why you are needed in the first place, you can then use the agency’s own quote to explain how you plan to meet that challenge.

The agency quote should use the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of the client’s current marketplace and give clues towards the tools and techniques you’ll be using to deliver results. Not only is that information much more interesting to read than the bog-standard “We’re delighted...” quote, it’s also far more direct in transmitting your key messaging to readers who may be prospective clients - which is sort of the point of the press release in the first place.

So the next time you’re involved in drafting a press release, remember the advice above and try to ensure that the quotes you’ve included serve a purpose by actually saying something.